Wadia Digimaster X-32 digital processor Follow-Up June 1991

Robert Harley wrote a followup in June 1991 (Vol.14 No.6):

The X-32 has a new, thicker front panel and a much more attractive layout. The unit's original diagonally oriented LEDs have been replaced by recessed LEDs and pushbuttons which make the X-32 much more attractive. The circuit is virtually the same as the one I auditioned, but with one minor software change.

I listened to the Wadia's new X-32 with the same system described in my reviews in this issue of the Audio Research DAC1 and Wadia WT-3200 transport. On hand for comparison were the DAC1, Theta DSPro Basic, Proceed PDP 2, and Meridian 203 processors. I compared it head-to-head with the Theta DSPro Basic, a processor I concluded to be superior to the X-32 in my original reviews of these two identically priced units. At the time, the X-32 was driven by a coaxial interconnect, not glass-fiber. I used the glass optical connection for most of the auditioning for this "Follow-Up."

The X-32 has many of the Wadia 2000's remarkable qualities, but to a lesser extent. In particular, the X-32's low-frequency presentation was very similar to the 2000, with effortless extension, dynamic impact, and sense of weight. Compared with the DSPro Basic, the X-32 had a more authoritative bass, better conveying music's rhythmic energy. In addition to having slightly better extension, there was a roundness and warmth to the bass that added a nice bloom to the low end. The Basic, however, had more precise pitch definition and tautness. Which presentation I preferred depended on the recording.

The X-32 also had an impressive soundstage, with the ability to throw focused images within a three-dimensional perspective. It didn't, however, have the stunning depth and feeling of air surrounding instrumental outlines heard through the 2000. This isn't a criticism, though—no other processor matches the 2000 in this area. Image specificity was superb, with clearly defined instrumental outlines. There was the distinct impression of instruments existing in space between the loudspeakers, discrete from other images. However, despite the improvement in soundstage depth and transparency afforded by the fiber-optic interface, I still give the nod to the Theta DSPro Basic for its better illusion of depth and resolution of hall reverberation. For example, the voice and lute in The English Lute Song (Dorian DOR-90109) seemed to be surrounded by a larger hall through the Basic.

The X-32's basic tonal character was a little sweeter than I remembered (now driven via glass fiber), but still had a bit of hardness in the lower treble that made it seem slightly bright and forward. It wasn't top-octave tizziness that made cymbals sound like bursts of white noise, but the lower treble where many harmonics are present. There was a trace of glare to instrumental timbres not heard through the 2000 or the Basic. This is my primary criticism of the X-32, but not one that would preclude a recommendation. The unit does so many other things well that I found it always musical and enjoyable.

When driven with a glass fiber-optic signal, the X-32 was sweeter on top, with deeper and fuller bass presentation and increased soundstage depth. Owners of the X-32 should thus audition Wadia's WT-3200 transport. The addition of a glass input to the newer-production X-32 significantly increased the X-32's overall musical potential. Even when driven by a coaxial interconnect, the X-32 offered a superbly musical presentation. Considering the recent improvements in digital processors, the Wadia X-32 still holds its own and has earned a continued recommendation.

I'll conclude this "Follow-Up" with a few measurements. All measurements made on this sample were virtually identical to those made on the previous sample. The only thing that bothered me was an interchannel amplitude difference of a little over 0.5dB. The left channel was half a dB louder than the right—a factor that could affect imaging—though it wasn't readily apparent in the auditioning.—Robert Harley

Wadia Digital Corporation
511 Second Street
Hudson, WI 54016
(715) 386-8116